WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders are considering a short-term increase in the U.S. debt limit as a possible way to break the gridlock that threatens the nation with an unprecedented default in as little as a week, officials said Wednesday night.
These officials said there is far less urgency inside the leadership about ending the current nine-day partial government shutdown, which has caused inconvenience and financial concern for many individual Americans but appears not to threaten the widespread economic damage a default might bring.
The officials declined to say what conditions, if any, might be attached to legislation to raise the $16.7 trillion debt limit for an undetermined period, perhaps a few weeks or months. The GOP rank and file is expected to meet privately to discuss the issue today, before a delegation led by Speaker John Boehner goes to the White House to meet with President Barack Obama.
The officials describing the developments late Wednesday spoke only on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to disclose details of private deliberations.
Obama has said he won’t agree to sign a debt limit increase if conditions are attached. Republicans indicated several days ago they intended to seek spending cuts to reduce deficits, measures to roll back environmental regulations and changes in the nation’s 3-year-old health care law.
More recently, the GOP-controlled House has passed legislation to create a 20-member group of lawmakers from the House and Senate to negotiate over those and other issues. The bill makes no mention of an increase in the debt limit, but the two topics could be combined in a potential face-saving way out of the impasse.
The disclosures came as Obama met at the White House in late afternoon for more than an hour with House Democrats. He told them that while he would prefer legislation extending the Treasury’s borrowing ability beyond the next election, he would also sign a shorter-term bill.